Thursday, 29 January 2009

What's in a name?

I was reading a post over on ‘Big Circumstance’ about the value of dog collars which led to some comments about the use of names and titles and it got me to thinking.
I do wonder sometimes about names and titles we use in church – what do they convey to people outside of the church? In case you think I just mean Reverend and Very Reverend, I have to say it is much wider than that and of course it is in all denominations. In respect of titles for ministers we are not as bad as some as all we have is reverend, and elevation to superintendent or chair of district do not bring titles like right reverend or venerable and the president of conference escapes from becoming the right reverend.
There are of course other titles that people have lay reader or local preacher, sidesmen or stewards, worship leader, communion steward door steward, class leader and probably a whole host of others but what do they all mean, how confusing is it to see a list of church officials with strange sounding job titles and dare I say a level of self importance brought on by being one of the names on the list and made worse by moving up the hierarchy whether real or perceived.
I do realise that there are occasions when the use of titles can be very effective and I remember when I first started working in housing my job title was ‘Residential Community Officer’ but I was in effect the warden of a fairly large housing complex and was certainly referred to by the residents as that. I had occasion to ring a local doctor’s surgery to request a visit for one of my tenants and said I was the warden which met with a very uninterested response along the lines of we’ll get a doctor out when we can. Later the same week I had occasion to call the same surgery and this time used my proper job title which got a totally different response from the surgery and they said they would get someone out immediately after surgery.
I think really for me the most important title is this ‘A sinner saved by grace’!

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Worried about Methodism

I am quite concerned about Methodism - is it dying? Has it already died? Is nothing happening to cause controversy?
You may be asking why I am putting these questions forward and the answer is quite simple - we have gone 15 days without any comments from 'Methodism's most controversial commentator'. I find this a little worrying unless of course it is to do with the time of the year and the onset of seasonal affective disorder.
Perhaps this post might draw out a response or even a post over at Methodist Preacher!

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Equality in the Church (5)

Equality in the church (5).
Not sure whether this post really sits in the series I did during the Christmas Holiday but I thought it might be worth giving some consideration to worship leaders, and I suppose the question as with the other things I have looked at is ‘How equal are worship leaders’.
As with the other topics I can only speak from my own experience based in the case on what happens in our circuit because they were none existent way back in 1982/3.
We have a number of worship leaders in the circuit with five out of the ten churches having them according to the plan. As might be expected the spread of then is uneven with one church having one worship leader while another has 6 or 7. Their names and addresses are included in the circuit directory under the listing for each church but do not appear on the plan.
I am not sure how well used the worship leaders are other than as readers and I suspect that some local preachers are not comfortable using them as there may be a perception that there is a degree of risk involved, especially if you do not know the worship leaders very well.
On the other side of the coin one of our local preachers recently took a service at my own church and left the choosing of the hymns to the worship leaders. This proved to be a particularly good experience with the hymns fitting very well with the readings and the sermon and the preacher reported back to the preachers meeting how successful this had been.
I realise that sometimes people see worship leading as a way for people to dip their toe in the water on the road to being a local preacher but I am not sure that is fair. I think that some people are very talented in leading worship and very comfortable doing so but may not be so good at preaching or even feel that they have been called to do so. I think there is a danger that we can see the reverse of the desired effect happening with people being turned off preaching rather than turned on. It is I think equally possible that some people are excellent at preaching but not so good at leading worship. Perhaps there is room for developing worship leaders alongside preachers in perhaps a Sankey and Moody partnership where on handles the music and one handles the preaching. I am conscious that this is not allowed within standing orders (680-683) as worship leaders are supposed to be an individual church appointment rather than a circuit appointment, but perhaps there is some mileage in this and it could be considered. I think there has been some discussion previously in respect of making worship leaders a circuit appointment and it may be that further discussion could and should take place. Perhaps this is one for the new cluster at Church house that deals with these matters to take a look at.
I did ask if there would be a worship leader present at one of our churches in an evening to be told that they only went in the morning so an opportunity was missed to use them because they were not available.
From time to time I go to churches in other denominations to preach and often all I have to do is preach as the worship side of the service is led by someone at the church I go to. I never cease to be amazed at how well this works and often I will not have communicated the theme of my message prior to going and yet hymns, reading prayers will fit as well as if I had planned the whole thing myself.
I really do think that worship leaders can be a great asset both to our churches and to our local preachers and would certainly encourage preachers to use them. Of course it may be that the picture for my readers is very different and I would love to hear of experiences that may be different to mine and would certainly like to hear some positive experiences.

Friday, 2 January 2009

New year, new plans?

I have noticed one or two of my fellow bloggers have written about their thoughts for 2009 (Methodist Preacher) and their plans (Big Circumstance) and in one case a list of events that are taking place for the whole of this year (Olive at Octomusings.
I had found these posts quite interesting and it set me to thinking what I might do this year other than the normal things I do, preaching, playing the organ, working etc.
One project I hope to complete quite early on this year is the book I have been writing for around two years now about the memories of my childhood in the 50's and 60's with a little bit of overlap into the 70's. I am told that I have done a number of things wrong with writing this book because I did not set any targets at the beginning so the project never seems to get finished and there is no urgency about it. Well the reality is there was never any urgency about it any way and as I have written and shared odd chapters with others the book has grown. It is also true that when writing this type of work there are lots of occasions when something that is said in a conversation will spark a revision of an existing chapter or even a new chapter completely. I have spent a lot of time editing previously written chapters.
The other project I am considering is a second book of Vestry Prayers which would be for Year 'C' which of course begins on 29th November 2009. One or two people have approached me about this and said I should try to get a wider readership, perhaps even advertising it at the Spring Synod with the promise of being available to purchase at the Autumn Synod. I quite like the idea of this and the discipline of having to look at all the readings to enable writing to be appropriate is quite good from a Continuing Local Preacher Development perspective. It goes without saying that I would need to set some very definite targets for this project if I were to ensure it was written and published in time.
In respect of looking forward to the year ahead I pray that 2009 will be a peaceful year in many respects and that we would see a cessation of the many conflicts which are going on around the world and for an increased interest in things spiritual, with a particular leaning to the gospel of Jesus Christ.